Bleaching wood

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Steve Maskery

Established Member
26 Apr 2004
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I've bought a nice piece of rippled sycamore today (see thread in Turning). Figure is beautiful, but the colour is a bit dark. Has anyone ever tried using bleach (the Liberon stuff - I think it's oxalic acid)? If so, does the lightening last or is it just temporary? I have an ancient bottle in the cupboard, no idea if it has a shelf life. I may just have to experiment.

I had some 2-part bleach, been sat around the shop for ages. Used it like it said on the labels but had slight green tint to it. Have since found out you should not use it if it's a bit old. So buy some fresh or you may suffer some heart ache!
best regards
Philly :D
Yes Steve, I've used the Liberon Wood Bleach (it is oxalic acid) on mould damaged oak. It worked very well at removing seriously bad mildew stains (although 2 applications were necessary) It should lighten most timbers to some extent and as far as I am aware, it is permanent.


Three kinds of bleach are generally used, 2-part (caustic soda/hydrogen peroxide); Chlorine; oxalic acid.

The last named is good for stains eg black stains caused by iron/water on oak. Chlorine bleaches are general purpose and may or may not work very well on wood colour or stains

2 Part bleaches are very good for removing wood colouration. They are permanent in their effect. Two applications are much more effective than a single application , no matter how strong or how long the length of time the initial application may be left on.

As always - experiment first!!
well Steve, you have to use fresh bleach as
1 oxalic acid has a shelf life of three months when in liquid state - better to go and get oxalic crystals and mix with warm water when required. Downside is you have to sign the poison regisater or prove that you are a professional woodworker :shock:
2 the 2 part bleach has a limited shelf life too - 6 months maximum. Available from any good varnish/polish manufacturer.
3 Household bleach is only [iirc] 3% so not very strong, but always handy lol !
I usually use Oxalic crystals to make a paste and spread on the stain directly then wash the whole area afterwards with another diluted soluition, to even the colour out.
Hope this helps a bit, - you could also ask Norman as he has experience in this field too :lol: over to you Norm :D
Thanks guys. The Best Before date on the bottle is in Latin, so perhaps it's time I threw it away.....

Turned a finial in macassar ebony this evening (whislt baking a cake - oooh I'm just SO multi-tasking). I guess a Turner could knock one up in 10 minutes, but I'm only a turner, so it took me couple of hours. Very pleased with the results though.

This is for the clock I'm making in competition with my Uncle Tom. I'll try to post some pics.

Hi Steve,

I use Rustins two part bleach, easy to use, not so easy to obtain, good clear instructions on the pack. The East Midlands rep dropped me a bottle in because I couldn't find it locally.

The only downside and it's probably the same with all bleaches is you have to wash the second solution off whatever your bleaching and, in some cases, depending on your final finish you need to add a tablespoon full of white vinegar to that final wash.

As I mainly use colour in my work I like to start with as white a piece as possible. On darker woods I also bleach out parts of my work to create highlights in the wood (like the hairdressers do) and the Rustins product always seems to give the best results for this purpose.


nothing to add to your advise, as usual fully covered.
my own preferance is 2 pack ,in light coats, till its where you want to be colour wise. good tip with the oxl, as paste etc: